- Created by: FudgeRev123
- Created on: 16-06-21 00:08
In 1999 the reconstructed Polynesian sailing canoe Hokuk'a succeeded in reaching Easter from Mangareva after a voyage of 17 days. To us modern landlubbers, it is literally incredible that canoe voyagers sailing east from Mangareva could have had the good luck to hit an island
only nine miles wide from north to south after such a long voyage.
However, Polynesians knew how to anticipate an island long before land
became visible, from the flocks of nesting seabirds that fly out over a radius
of a hundred miles from land to forage. Thus, the effective diameter of
Easter (originally home to some of the largest seabird colonies in the whole
Pacific) would have been a respectable 200 miles to Polynesian canoevoyagers,
rather than a mere nine.
Easter Islanders themselves have a tradition that the leader of the expedition to
settle their island was a chief named Hotu Matu'a ("the Great Parent") sailing in
one or two large canoes with his wife, six sons, and extended family. (European
visitors in the late 1800s and early 1900s recorded many oral traditions from
surviving islanders, and those traditions contain much evidently reliable
information about life on Easter in the century or so before European arrival, but
it is uncertain whether the traditions accurately preserve details about events a
thousand years earlier.)
We shall see (Chapter 3) that the populations of many
other Polynesian islands remained in contact with each other through regular
interisland two-way voyaging after their initial discovery and settlement. Might
that also have been true of Easter, and might other canoes have arrived after
Hotu Matu'a? Archaeologist Roger Green has suggested that possibility for
Easter, on the basis of similarities between some Easter tool styles and the styles
of Mangarevan tools at a time several centuries after Easter's settlement.
that possibility, however, stands Easter's traditional lack of dogs, pigs, and some
typical Polynesian crops that one might have expected subsequent voyagers to
have brought if those animals and crops had by chance failed to survive in Hotu
Matu'a's canoe or had died out soon after his arrival.
In addition, we shall see in the next chapter that finds of numerous tools made of stone whose chemical composition is distinctive for one island, turning up on another island,
unequivocally prove interisland voyaging between the Marquesas, Pitcairn,
Henderson, Mangareva, and Societies, but no stone of Easter origin has been
found on any other island or vice versa.
Thus, Easter Islanders may have remained effectively completely isolated at the end of the world, with no contact with outsiders for the thousand years or so separating Hotu Matu'a's arrival from
Roggeveen's. Given that East Polynesia's main islands may have been settled around A.D.
600-800, when was Easter itself occupied? There is considerable
uncertainty about the date, as there is for the settlement of the main islands.
The published literature on Easter Island often mentions possible evidence
for settlement at A.D. 300-400, based especially on calculations of language
divergence times by the technique known as glottochronology…